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East Ukraine a no-fly zone

Update: July, 18/2014 - 13:15
A picture taken on July 17, 2014 shows bodies amongst the wreckages of the malaysian airliner carrying 295 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine. Pro-Russian rebels fighting central Kiev authorities claimed on Thursday that the Malaysian airline that crashed in Ukraine had been shot down by a Ukrainian jet. —AFP/VNA/VNS PHOTOS

BRUSSELS — Ukrainian authorities on Thursday declared the east of the country a no-fly zone after a Malaysian airliner carrying 295 people crashed in the volatile region, European flight safety body Eurocontrol said.

 

The list of passengers and crew according to nationality are as follows:

Netherlands 154

Malaysia 43 (including 15 crew and 2 infants)

Australia 27

Indonesia 12 (including 1 infant)

United Kingdom 9

Germany 4

Belgium 4

Philippines 3

Canada 1

Unverified 41

European and US airlines rerouted their flights as Kiev said the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH17 was shot down in a "terrorist" attack and a US official said intelligence analysts "strongly believe" it was downed by a surface-to-air missile.

"Since the crash, the Ukrainian authorities have informed Eurocontrol of the closure of routes from the ground to unlimited (altitude) in Eastern Ukraine," a statement said.

"All flight plans that are filed using these routes are now being rejected by Eurocontrol. The routes will remain closed until further notice," it added.

According to Eurocontrol's information, the doomed plane was flying at a level known as "330", or approximately 10,000 metres or 33,000 feet, when it disappeared from radar screens.

The route itself had been closed to level "320" but was cleared for those flying at MH17's altitude.

In Paris, a statement by junior transport minister Frederic Cuvillier said French carriers should "avoid Ukraine's air space as long as the reasons behind this catastrophe are not known".

The Boeing 777 dropped off the radar at around 1415 GMT (10.15pm Malaysian time) and crashed in a border region held by pro-Russian separatists.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pointedly called the disaster a "terrorist act", and major airlines quickly announced plans to route planes away from the area.

Air France said it decided "to no longer fly over eastern Ukraine as soon as it heard of the event", and Alitalia had done the same.

A spokesman for German flag carrier Lufthansa told AFP it also chose to immediately make a "wide detour" around the region because "our passenger's safety is our top priority".

Lufthansa's subsidiary Swiss took similar action, and reported that "one flight between Bangkok and Zurich was affected, the flight was rerouted".

In London, a British Department for Transport spokesman confirmed that "flights already airborne are being routed around the area by air traffic control in the region". US carrier Delta was one of the first non-European carriers to say it too was steering clear "out of an abundance of caution". "The thoughts and prayers of the entire Delta Air Lines family are with the passengers and crew, and their loved ones, involved in the Malaysia Airlines incident," a statement added.

British Airways was already avoiding Ukrainian airspace, with the exception of one flight a day to the capital Kiev, which is well to the west of the crash zone.

In April, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) declared the troubled Crimean peninsula, south-west of the crash site, a virtual no-fly zone for US airlines and pilots.

A similar no-fly order for European airlines was issued at the time by the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, the official name of Eurocontrol.

Full and transparent investigation

A full and transparent international investigation is needed to investigate the alleged shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, said United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon.

Ban said he was closely monitoring the reports, along with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN agency.

"There is clearly a need for a full and transparent international investigation. For the moment, I offer my deep condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims and people of Malaysia," he said in a statement on Thursday.

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting later Friday.

According to wire reports, Britain's UN mission had requested the meeting and proposed a Security Council press statement calling for "a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident."

It is expected that Malaysia will seek to make a statement at the emergency session as Kuala Lumpur is one of the concerned parties in the crash.

In Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement said the US was horrified with the incident.

"There are no words adequate to express our condolences to the families of the nearly 300 victims. We offer our sympathies and support to the governments of Malaysia and the Netherlands at this difficult time, as well as to all those whose citizens may have been on board.

"We are reviewing whether any American citizens were aboard the flight. The US Government remains prepared to assist with a credible, international investigation any way we can, and we will continue to be in touch with all relevant partners as we seek the facts of what happened today." — AFP/The Star/VNS

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